Following Wild games, Managing Editor Glen Andresen will give the five takeaways that he'll remember from each contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 5-3 win against the Dallas Stars.
No matter what happened the previous 81 games, the Minnesota Wild fans wanted this game today. And considering the ramifications of a Wild win – the chance to send the Dallas Stars packing for the offseason – the Wild faithful treated this like a playoff game, exploding in celebration when Pierre-Marc Bouchard
slammed home an empty net goal.
So did the players.
Putting forth their most complete performance of perhaps the season, the good guys skated past the Dallas Stars, ending the season of the former North Stars and giving the Chicago Blackhawks a chance to defend their Stanley Cup title.
You don’t owe us much Chicago, other than just a playoff victory over the Canucks. If you can’t manage that, we’ll take all the Italian beef you can spare.
“It was a lot of fun being part of this game, and you want more,” said Head Coach Todd Richards.
Chicago’s season was extended in major part because of guys named Staubitz, Spurgeon and Gillies. I’d be willing to bet those guys weren’t well known in the Windy City before today. They had combined for six goals this season coming into today’s game. And yet, in the second period, the Wild had built a 3-2 lead on goals by all three.
The scorers of the winning goal and the dagger goal were good stories as well. Antti Miettinen, who had an up-and-down season, slammed home the game-winner that sent his former team packing. It’s possible it was the last Wild goal scored by Miettinen, who will be a free agent on July 1, barring the Wild re-signing him.
And then there was Bouchard, who we wondered at times last year if he would ever score another Wild goal. Fittingly, he capped off his amazing comeback with yet another third period goal, set up by the relentless hustle of Cal Clutterbuck
It’s just the nature of the business, but some players have definitely played their last games in a Wild sweater. Who are those players? We won’t know until the summer. But they could be some faces who starred in today’s game. There were four unrestricted free agents in the game today. We talked about Miettinen’s heroics, but let’s not forget the others.
Andrew Brunette picked up two assists, including his 450th helper to set up the Mittens tally. Jose Theodore was spectacular with the game on the line, coming up with huge save in the waning minutes of the third period and finishing with 26 stops. And Chuck Kobasew picked up an assist and was busting his hump all night, especially on a remarkable individual effort to clear the Wild zone in the third period despite a long spell of playing without a stick.
There will be all kinds of questions answered in the offseason of which players will be back, and what the team philosophy is moving forward. You can bet the Wild wants to get younger, and the recent play of guys like McMillan, Gillies and Spurgeon provides a lot of hope. The same can be said for the Houston Aeros, who capped off a stellar – and surprising – season in the AHL by blitzing the Oklahoma City Barons, 6-3. The Aeros will start the Calder Cup playoffs on Wednesday, and they’ll get an added boost with the returns of Spurgeon, Gillies, Maxim Noreau, Drew Bagnall
, McMillan and hopefully Marco Scandella
, who is nearing a return from a broken finger.
And of course, the highlight of my day came during a TV timeout in the first period. Highlights of last night’s National Championship game were shown on the Jumbotron along with the school song of the UMD Bulldogs. Then, the in-house camera panned over to a suite that was filled with bleary-eyed, partied-out Bulldog hockey players and their brand new trophy.
That group of players made UMD the 19th school to win the national title and they left shortly after the second period started to be welcomed home by the city of Duluth.
As a Duluthian whose parents had season tickets for more than 40 years through thick and thin, it was a touching moment and those young men should be extremely proud of an amazing accomplishment.